Tyneside children had a whale of a time aboard a DFDS ferry as they helped launch a new marine conservation project.
The pupils from Greenfields Community Primary School in Wideopen, North Tyneside, were invited aboard the DFDS King Seaways Tyne-Amsterdam ferry at North Shields to find out about the vast array of marine wildlife on their doorstep – and how they can play their part in ensuring its future.
The nine-11 year olds discovered why the North East’s coastal waters are such a unique wildilife habitat – and how mankind is threatening this – at the official unveiling of the new Your Seas project run by whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA in association with DFDS.
The initiative has been back with a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Local Environmental Action Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.
It is being led by ORCA’s community outreach officer, Alison Lomax, who is based at the DFDS headquarters in North Shields. As part of her work she will visit schools to deliver workshops on whales, dolphins and porpoises that have made the North Sea their home and highlight the threats they face including accidental capture in fishing nets, marine litter and climate change.
The pupils from Greenfields were given the chance to hold and examine a dolphin skull as well as visit DFDS King Seaways’ special wildlife observation deck which is kitted out with binoculars, comfortable seats and information on the types of wildlife passengers can expect to see on their voyages to and from North Shields.
The environment and marine conservation is on the curriculum at Greenfields. But all the children were amazed at just how wildlife rich the North Sea coast and its waters are.
Ben Raffle, 10, said: “I never knew so many animals lived in the North Sea and that there were dolphins and whales. Now I know a lot more about them and why we need to protect them.”
Mitchell Tapner, nine, added: “I thought the North Sea was just full of fish, but now I know about dolphins and whales and how important they are. I would love to see a real life whale or dolphin.”
Alison will also be working with schools at weekly sessions on board the DFDS ferry in its special ORCA information room on deck nine, when it is docked at North Shields.
She said: “We want to celebrate the fact that our coastal waters and the North Seas is a unique habitat. Few people are aware that whales and dolphins live right here on our doorstep in the North Sea.
“In fact, North East waters are rich and diverse and home to a staggering number or whale and dolphin species.”
The wider community can get involved in the Your Seas project by training to become Marine Mammal surveyors and recording wildlife on DFDS Seaways’ Newcastle to Amsterdam route from May to September 2012.
To do this, volunteers will need to complete the Marine Mammal Survey (MMS) training course run by ORCA. In return for becoming a survey volunteer, DFDS Seaways provides free travel on the route for the purpose of the study. Community and youth groups can also get involved by booking Alison to give a Dolphin Science talk for their members or by visiting one of the many events that Orca will be attending across the North East this year. Visit www.orcaweb.org.uk to find out more.
DFDS Seaways is funding the appointment of two Wildlife Officers on board cruise ferry King Seaways so customers can learn about the marine wildlife of the North Sea and participate in fun activities and deck watches.